We all have those moments in life where we suddenly realize that there are at least 1,000 things we need to do and we’re not really sure when we’ll have the time to do them. I’ve had conversations with at least five people at work just in the last two days about how quickly our weekends seem to fly by when we’re spending every last minute working to get something done and by the time 9 o’clock on Monday morning rolls around we’re not really sure what we have to show for it all. But if four years of college taught me nothing else (and dear Lord it better have taught me something else given this loan debt), it’s that there is a way to be productive with your time without feeling like you never have a chance to just relax and
binge watch Gilmore Girls.
I know that sounds like more work, planning out time to work, but I promise it makes it much easier if you know how much time you’re giving yourself that you have to work. One of the biggest problems I face when I sit down to work is that I get distracted: I check Facebook even though I have no interest in it, I log into Bloglovin’ even though I know I’ve read all my favorite blogs, I scan Twitter and fill my online cart with hundreds of dollars worth of clothing I ultimately will never buy. Taking five minutes to carve out how much time you’ll spend working, and what your “reward” will be for doing that can help keep you motivated and focused on the work in front of you.
Make a List
Whether it’s a “to-do list” on a blank sheet of notebook paper, a calendar on your computer, an app on your phone, or a good ol’ fashioned planner, make a list of all the things you have to get done. Just getting things written down can give you some perspective, help you to remember things you might have forgotten otherwise, and put you in the mood to work. Writing down what seems like an infinite amount of work in a way that’s easy to look at can make the work ahead of you seem somehow manageable.
Once you have your list, prioritize it in terms of what needs to be done today, what’s actually important, and what you can get done in a specified amount of time. If you only have 20 minutes, don’t start work on something you know will take a few hours. Instead, finish up something that you can do in 20 minutes and that way, you’re able to knock something off your list and move on without feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything.
Get Rid of Distractions
Before you start working, make sure you have everything you’ll need. Pens and pencils, water, paper, a sweater, cookies to snack on… Whatever it is that you can anticipate yourself getting up in 10 minutes because you just can’t work without it, get it now. Then put your phone somewhere out of reach and on silent, and if you can find a way to block yourself off from social media. Our mind’s first reaction to having work to do is to find a way out, and the more distractions we can eliminate, the less likely we are to walk away from our to-do list. If you have to use your computer to get work done, SelfControl is a great app to block certain websites that you’d otherwise get lost in (cough*Facebook*cough).
No matter what your college professors would have you believe, it’s impossible to spend hours working without a single break (even the SATs give you a break between tests, after all). While you’re figuring out what needs to be done and how much time you have to do it, mark down some time to breathe and relax, too. Chances are you’re tackling this to-do list on the weekend, which is supposed to be time for you to relax. Make sure you’re taking that into account when you’re planning out your to-do list.